Roguelikes is a genre that has been surging back into popularity in the last few years, with popular titles coming out or receiving updates like Binding of Isaac, ADOM, 20XX, Darkest Dungeon, and even Death Road to Canada, Enter the Gungeon, Everspace, and plenty more. Unexplored calls itself a Roguelite- the distinction being that it doesn’t attempt to emulate Rogue completely, or that it just wants to pander to hipsters, honestly anything goes with nebulous genre classification. This particular title has players venturing into the depths of a dungeon to retrieve a mystical artifact. So is Unexplored worth exploring your wallet, or would this be an adventure better left at the tavern? Let’s find out.
Unexplored is a game in which players are tasked with creating your character from extremely limited palette options (I opted for highest visibility), and then you dive right into either the tutorial or the main game modes. The Switch version of this game comes with DLC packs from the game’s run on Steam, which are each game modes with different rules, more on those later. The main game lacks basically any storytelling and plot, like most roguelite games, as the focus is almost entirely on game play. Your task is to get to the bottom of the dungeon and back out again, which isn’t actually as simple a task as it sounds. Unexplored is one of those games that wants the player to play through it multiple times, and the difficulty lies in not only your play skill, but also knowing which items to take along with you during your quest, and what items pose too much of a risk to blindly use.
Similar to The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, and plenty more, Unexplored has randomly generated floors, enemies, and loot. Similar to Binding of Isaac, you won’t know exactly what each item does when you pick it up, and part of the learning curve of the game is figuring out safe ways to test potions, enchantments, etc. (similar to the pills in Binding of Isaac). You can use two weapons as you progress through the dungeon and there’s a reasonable variety, but a lot of them are somewhat the same. You can look around with the right stick (which is required for throwing your secondary weapon while retreating), move with the left stick, and use your primary and secondary weapons with ZR and ZL, respectively. You won’t always have a secondary weapon, mind you, because you can pick up shields, among other things, while progressing through the dungeon. Players will find new weaponry, armor, lockpicks and keys, potions, enchanted scrolls, and more, as you make your way to the bottom floor.
Players will find potions that you may want to throw first to at least determine their effect before drinking them (getting injured, drinking a potion in hopes of healing, and then becoming blind for a period of time is just a roguelike rite of passage). Players will also find enchantment scrolls that can bestow either beneficial or harmful effects, and some runs being cavalier and using every scroll you come across will lead to success while other runs you may be wondering how you stumbled upon your 15th scroll with a maleficent effect in a row- such is the nature of Roguelites. Players get access to a map that shows how far you’ve explored on your respective floor, and also any points of interest if you’re able to see them- such as how if you find a Detect Magic scroll, you’ll notice places to find items more than if you were blinded yet again, why did I drink another one of those potions?
One of the largest problems in the Switch version is that it’s just very, very difficult to see when playing in handheld mode. Several small enemies are legitimately tiny- less than a third of a centimeter in size on the Switch’s screen. The text is tiny, although not unreadable. There are also some random issues such as the UI not highlighting the buttons in the menu, not to mention the inability to save or select options when it the selections appear onscreen by pressing the L button. You can, however, select the exact same buttons on-screen by pressing +, this is just one of the weird ways in which Unexplored lacks polish (the buttons appear in both the L and + menus, but only selectable in one of them). Not to mention, if the game crashes (which it will, currently. Hopefully a patch corrects this in the future), you will lose all of your progress no matter how deep you were in the dungeon.
There are some reasonably large loading times, but they’re not completely unbearable. Starting the game, you’ll be in a new run in about 2 minutes, though most of that 2 minutes is spent in separate loading screens, which hints the optimization may be poor. There are also some pauses while in-game that the PC version of the game doesn’t seem to have, which can even occur in the middle of combat. This isn’t the most fast-paced game out there so it’s not a huge detriment, but it’s still an issue worth taking note. Thankfully, these issues are rare (the crash happened once in 20, and the game hanging up during combat seemed to have been fixed by turning the Switch off completely and then back on again, though that could very well be placebo effect.
Out of the roguelikes to recently release, Unexplored is probably the closest to Rogue or ADOM of the bunch. It lacks turn-based combat but otherwise is very close to what one could imagine real-time ADOM to play like. The graphical style leaves a little bit to be desired, much like ADOM, though this game uses 3 dimensional polygons on a top-down, 2D plane. So, sometimes the random generation will hide things from you in ways you literally couldn’t see (levers underneath overhanging rock with nothing sticking out to notice it’s there. I had this happen once, and the only reason I found it worth noting is because I came across a floor I couldn’t complete but random found a switch while rubbing against every. Single. Wall. I am left unsure if this is a bug or an intended feature, however). The soundtrack is very ambient, full of low-key music that enhances the atmosphere of Unexplored quite well.
As for what makes this the Unlocked Edition: Unexplored on Switch gives you direct access to The Mithril Run, Ripley Run, and The Dark Ritual, which are runs of the game which have slightly different rules. Mithril Run, for example, gives you the same general shape of the mine, but the details inside are completely different, just to give an example. There’s also additional characters to unlock, each unlocked by performing specific actions in previous runs (such as picking a lock to unlock the rogue). So, there’s plenty to get some enjoyment for your $15 investment in Unexplored.
Overall, Unexplored: Unlocked Edition is a pretty reasonable Switch Roguelite. With so many of them out, though, does Unexplored earn your money? Well, that depends on how forgiving you are of lack of polish. Crashing and deleting your progress is something I, personally, experienced very little of, and it only happened on the second floor of the dungeon (so not very far in), but anyone who has read my reviews before knows that this kind of thing that I abhor in a game. There are, of course, some other weird areas that lack in polish, but those issues aren’t as bad as crashes in a roguelite since those remove progress from your whole run (Binding of Isaac, for example, would dump you back onto your most recent floor, I believe).
For those who enjoy Roguelites, Unexplored is a slam dunk if you’re hankering for another title in the Roguelike genre, even if it isn’t the most visually appealing title to play on the big screen. Those who dislike games that require you play through them multiple times, or perhaps those who prefer to play in handheld mode (where it’s very difficult to see) may want to pass on Unexplored and try the litany of other Roguelike/lite titles on Switch that are similarly priced.